Street lights report criticises switch-off

A not-in-use street light
A not-in-use street light

A new report published by the Highway Electrical Association has criticised the way some street lights have been switched off.

In 2011, Northamptonshire County Council turned off 30,000 street lights, about half those in the county, saving £2m a year.

The report on the management of public lighting says there is “little excuse or cost benefit for imposing the arbitrary switching-off of street lighting unless this is something the residents actually desire”.

Defending the decision to switch off thousands of street lights, a spokesman for the Conservatives on the county council said the authority is replacing them with more efficient energy-saving lamps.

The spokesman said: “This improvement programme is already rolling out and thousands have been replaced already. It will be complete by April 2017 and will save 17.5 million kilowatts of electricity per year. This means a 40 per cent reduction in energy usage, making a major contribution to the county’s carbon reduction activities.”

The county council received 4,500 appeals from residents after the switch-off programme began and of those 1,000 were upheld.

The association’s report said: “In many areas, including urban areas, there is little appetite for switching off lighting and here there is more scope for profiling the lighting requirements through the night to achieve an intelligently managed solution which responds to the varying needs of the populace at different times of the night in the most energy-efficient way.”

On rural areas it says: “There may be an argument for switching off lighting – however, this should not be based purely on crime statistics, as the effects of the fear of crime can be pernicious, particularly with an ageing population and can make residents ‘prisoners in their own homes’.”

Corby and East Northants MP Andy Sawford said the new research by the Highway Electrical Association supports his call for street lights to be turned back on.

He said: “Street lights are essential to our safety and security. Hundreds of people complained to me about the county council’s decision to turn off half the street lights in Northamptonshire.

“Street lights reduce accidents, reduce the fear of crime, promote social activities and help emergency services carry out their duties more effectively.

“This new research adds evidence to what we already knew was a crazy decision from Northamptonshire County Council.”